Thursday, January 14, 2021

You Learn Something New Every Day

I have decided that 2021 is the year to put that bit of folk wisdom to the test. The challenge, however, is not merely in the learning.

For example: on the first day, I learned that scenes from the 1947 film Black Narcissus were filmed at Leonardslee Gardens, which is just down the road from where we live. This gave me unexpected delight and prompted me to begin this year-long odyssey.

The second day, I learned something, then forgot what it was. Later, through great mental effort, I managed to recall it. Then I forgot it again. So, that day, I learned that I cannot rely on my short-term memory.

And this is what I believe the benefits of the exercise will be, the simple act of remaining open to new knowledge and experiences and committing them to memory (and then to a spreadsheet; I have no illusions about my ability to retain 365 tidbits of esoteric information for instant recall).

Over this year, I hope to gather a mix of surprising facts along with learned skills. I do not count things I simply found out, such as, “I just checked my Twitter feed, and it turns out Jason is a right Muppet.” No, it would have to be a more uplifting bit of actual knowledge, such as the fact that when you climb Mt. Everest, you are required to return with a load of at least 30 pounds, consisting of your shit, anyone else’s shit you run across, and other miscellany you find strewn about. This is to help with the effort to keep Everest shit-free and de-cluttered. If you fail to do this, you forfeit your $4,000 deposit. I feel I’m a better person for knowing that.

The trick to this, as well as the benefit, is simply remembering what you did learn. Many lessons come to us every day, but they are often lost in the maelstrom of daily life, so I find being continually on the lookout for something that may enriched my knowledge base helps me look forward to the day. And on that note, I originally thought that 2021 might be the worst year to attempt such a thing, seeing as how there is very little stimulation at the moment, but then I realized this is the optimum time, because it not only helps you appreciate the slower pace of life, but it reaffirms the notion that you are always learning, no matter what else might (or might not) be going on.

Such as: despite common belief, only 4% of the content on the Internet is porn. Don’t ask me how I know this.

I do wish I had more skills on the list, such as “Learned to play Edelweiss on the piano” (alas, I have not) but, so far, all I can claim to have learned is that, if I just stuff my jeans into the socks I wear with my wellies, it feels fine.( I had been neatly wrapping my jeans around my ankles and carefully pulling the socks over them. This took time and the result always caused a pressure point on my ankle. Just pulling them on saves time and doesn’t end up annoying me on the walk.) It’s a little thing, but it does add to my quality of life.

Not everything does, however. I also learned that there is such a thing as a Vampire Finch. It’s a variety of finch (duh) that lives on a remote volcanic island. They are too small to get off (they likely got there on the winds of a storm) and there is nothing for them to eat so they survive by drinking the blood of the other sea birds there. The strangest thing is, the sea birds don’t seem to mind. This still gives me nightmares.

The Vampire Finch, the stuff of nightmares.

Although this has enhanced my knowledge, it is not as beneficial as this nugget: When one computer in your home is used to buy something, or even browse something, all other Internet-connected devices in your home—phones, laptops, tablets, the microwave—will get ads for that item in their FB feed or on Google. This is because all of them share the same IP address, which is associated with the router, not the individual devices. And that really is handy to know. (See the 4% item above.)

Some items are multi-faceted, allowing you to learn several things at once. Such as this historical oddity: The unique typeface of Dove press, after an acrimonious court battle, was destroyed by one of the owners (Thomas Cobden-Sanders) who secretly threw the punches into the Thames over the course of several months, in late 1916 and early 1917. (The reason this took so long is that the total weight of the punches was 2,600 lbs—this wasn't digital type.) 100 years later, Robert Green, who was working on a project to recreate the typeface, hunted for, and located 150 pieces.

Some of the recovered Dove Typeface.

This is fascinating, not only from the archaeological angle, but the fact that anyone cares enough about a typeface to go through all that, and that, back in the day, a typeface was not to be taken lightly (see what I did there?). They were carved and moulded and cast in metal and were worth enough that it caused the two men who developed this one to fall out over the money.

While admittedly enlightening, the above is not as potentially useful as the fact that it is perfectly legal to buy and possess a flamethrower in forty-nine of the fifty states (Maryland is the only state where you cannot).

The photo was stolen from an article titled:
You can buy a flamethrower online, and it's legal

My most recent acquisition, however, has proved to be—thus far—the most useful, because it put to rest something that has been on my mind of late.

I’m over here, gathering my information about world events through my media of choice. I think they are good choices, I think they tell me enough of the truth to allow me to make my mind up about what I believe. And I think I’m right. But there are others, who have their own information streams and who also think they are right. They think they are right as strongly as I do. So, who is right? I truly did wonder about this, but then I discovered a way to tell: If you are unsure about which side you're on, next time you are at a gathering of your group, look around. Do you see Nazis? If so, then you are on the wrong side.

The final benefit of this undertaking is: despite all that is going on in the world, I am looking forward to finding out what each new day can teach me. It’s a good way to get through the year, even if I never do learn to play Edelweiss on the piano.